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Wednesday, 4 May 1932

Mr MARTENS (HERBERT, QUEENSLAND) - That is the case in other States, also.

Mr LYONS - True; but, fortunately, in no other State has the same position arisen as obtains in New South Wales. In the other States the surplus over working costs on the railways goes towards the payment of interest, even though it may not be enough to meet the interest charges in full.

Mr A GREEN (KALGOORLIE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - Will the Commonwealth pay the wages of railway employees ?

Mr LYONS - I shall deal with that presently. As the State Government is not paying interest on the capital indebtedness of the New South Wales railways, and as that is being paid by the Commonwealth, the Commonwealth now proposes to attach a portion of the railway revenue of the State. No one can deny that the Commonwealth is justified in taking this action. The portion of railway revenue to be attached will be that amount which should properly bo made available for the payment of interest. It is not intended to attach that portion of the revenue which should be used for running expenses, including wages.

Mr Rosevear - How is that to be determined?

Mr LYONS - We shall determine it ourselves. We are in a position to decide just what portion of the railway revenue is necessary to meet the working costs, and what portion is required to meet the interest due on the capital expended on the railways. It is the definite intention of the Government to proceed on the lines that I have indicated. The details of the bill will be disclosed at the committee stage.

Mr Riordan - What will be the attitude of the Federal Government if the Government of New South Wales ceases the running of the State railways?

Mr LYONS - There is no justification for the Government of New South Wales to cease running the railways.

Mr Riordan - Does not the Prime Minister think that the producers of perishable products are entitled to know what will be the attitude of the Federal Government in tho event of the State railways ceasing to run?

Mr LYONS - If we were to attach the whole of the railway revenue, or anything more than the actual surplus over working expenditure, then some case might be made out in opposition to our action. In the event of the Lang Government ceasing to operate the railways, it would have to accept responsibility for its action. We are ensuring that tho State Government will have revenue sufficient to enable it to continue the running of the railways.

It should be clearly understood that we are asking the consent of honorable members to the only honest and decent course in the circumstances. The Government of New South Wales receives from the railways revenue which enables it to meet running costs, maintenance, repairs, wages, salaries, purchase of supplies, and so on, leaving a substantial surplus which any decent government would use in meeting the interest due on money borrowed to establish the railways. Under the authority of legislation which has already been enacted and declared valid, we are determined to collect the surplus over and above the cost of operating the railways, and to apply it, not to any Commonwealth commitments, but to the payment of a debt that is due by the Government of New South Wales itself. The case that I have made out is unanswerable, though it may be unacceptable to some, because of party considerations.

Another important provision in the bill gives the Commonwealth Treasurer power to require any person to answer questions and to produce documents relevant to any matter arising under the act. Other provisions in the bill deal with the .prosecution of offences and provides further penalties for refusal or failure to comply with the provisions of the act. We propose to increase the penalties for such offences as attempting to contravene or to prevent the operation of legislation which has been declared to be the paramount law of the land. In the present circumstances, it is serious indeed for any pei'80]1 to commit such an offence, whether he be a Minister of the Crown, a government official, or a member of a corporation.

Mr Gander - Or a Premier.

Mr LYONS - Or a Premier.

Mr Gander - Why not arrest and gaol Mr. Lang?

Mr LYONS - The penalty should be in keeping with the offence. Therefore, it is proposed to increase the penalties ia respect of all offences under the act. It is also proposed to amend sub-section 5 of section 15. This sub-section deals with the refund, in certain circumstances, of deposits paid to the Treasurer. The amendment is necessary in view of the recent judgment of the High Court. In addition, the bill contains .some drafting amendments designed to clarify the act. The Government of New South Wales has, within the last few clays, defaulted to the extent of £1,225,144. The amounts outstanding are -


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